Years ago, sitting with friends at dinner, former Minister of Health and local MLA Corky Evans was asked to identify the biggest challenge British Columbians face to good health. Corky surprised his table mates by described two things they didn’t expect.
He talked about the effects of loneliness and isolation in society today, and talked about our fear of death and how that impacts how we relate to health care.
More recently, the Vancouver Foundation surveyed the Lower Mainland population on their priorities and identified social isolation as the number-one health concern expressed by residents.
There is evidence to demonstrate that isolated, lonely people tend to live poorer, shorter lives, they get sick and injured more often, and are more prone to depression, anxiety, and radicalization.
Radicalization. Ever since hearing about the shooting in Quebec this Sunday, news that stunned me into speechless despair, I’ve been asking myself how we, as individuals, and as communities, can position ourselves to resist the swell of intolerance that seems at times to be washing over the world.
My fellow councillor Michael Dailly had some good suggestions in his article last week — we can volunteer, plant gardens, get to know our neighbours, advocate, and be kind.
We can cultivate the disciplines of rejecting division, and looking for common ground, and speak truthfully when we encounter ideas that harm.
We can also make sure we always ask who our regulations and policies benefit, and who they challenge, and do our best to make sure that it isn’t the same population over and over again that’s negatively impacted by the rules and customs we create.
We can ask, does this policy encourage social connection, or create more distance between groups or individuals?
We can defend the diversity of our city and our public spaces, and protect them by making sure changes and “upgrades” to the public realm are inspired and cultivated by the people who use them. By “we” I mean you and me. To make this place about all of us, we all need to participate. You’ve got to help out with this.
I once asked a professor of criminology what he thought the main factor was that determined whether a person grew up to be a functional, healthy adult. Was it unconditional love? No. He said it was a sense of belonging. Without it, a person falls into despair, addiction, or criminal activity.
We all need to feel we have a place in our community, and in the world.
It comes back to loneliness and isolation.
We have an upcoming open house on the Downtown Revitalization Plan, a last opportunity for public input. The date hasn’t been set yet, but stay tuned, it’ll be announced, and it’s a great opportunity to think about how we want to live together on our downtown streets, and to consider how we can make them for everyone, how we can include people different than us (whatever their stripe) in our vision of ourselves.
Nelson may be a small city nestled in the Canadian wilderness, but we can think globally while we act locally to stand against divisiveness, and dismissiveness. Right here.